This Week's Story

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How could one escaped slave woman do what Harriet Tubman did? (She is the new face on the US twenty dollar bill.)

This Week’s Story relives American history and the Bible through brief inspiring stories presented on mp3 audio recordings and text for reading.

What a Woman!

What a woman!  She wasn’t ugly; she wasn’t pretty.  She did not catch your eye, unless you knew who she was.  Then you’d gaze at her in amazement.  How could one woman in the 1800’s do what Harriet Tubman did?  She was an escaped slave, Underground Railroad conductor; a Civil War military spy, scout, cook, and nurse.  She could not read or write, and had seizures and sleeping spells, but she also was strong, courageous, and quick-thinking.

Harriet was born around 1820 in the slave state of Maryland.  As a child slave, her owners “provided” her with pain and no protection.  With her family, she heard Bible stories and was loved.   Her faith in God became practical and strong.  As a five year old she was forced to check muskrat traps in icy cold rivers.  Soon she was too sick to work.  Her next job was caring for a plantation owner’s baby.  She was whipped if the baby cried and had scars the rest of her life from those beatings.  By age 12 she was a field hand, plowing and hauling wood.  At 13, she tried to defend a runaway slave.  His boss threw a two-pound iron weight towards him, but the weight hit Harriet in the head.  Her seizures and sleeping spells resulted from this injury.

When she heard that she was to be sold to a chain gang, she immediately planned her escape to freedom.  A white woman gave her

contact names and told her how to find a safe house.  Travelling by night she reached the free state of Pennsylvania.

She said, “When I found I had crossed that line, I looked at my hands to see if I was the same person.  There was such a glory over everything; the sun came like gold through the trees, and over the fields, and I felt like I was in Heaven.”

Soon she was working to save money to smuggle friends and family to freedom.  She became a conductor on the Underground Railroad.  This was a secret group of people, who cooperated to help slaves get to freedom.

Escapees were threatened with vicious dogs, beatings, and slave catchers who hoped to collect rewards. Always, there was danger!

 Large rewards for Harriet’s capture were offered.  Once she was nearly caught when she overheard men reading a description of her on a wanted poster, which described her as illiterate.  Somehow, she got a book and pretended to be reading it.  Oh, her tactics were many and clever.  One rule she kept on escape missions: No returning!  She carried a revolver and told fugitives who were tired and wanted to turn back or surrender, “You’ll be free or die.”  She explained that “a live runaway could do great harm by going back but a dead one could tell no secrets.”

She was obeyed, respected, and never lost a passenger.  For herself she expressed no concern.  She is credited with making 19 rescue trips for over 300 slaves over ten years.  Her reward was not money; it was freedom for her people.

Many fascinating events happened in Harriet’s work before, during, and after the Civil War.  She believed that her life had a specific God-given purpose.  She told an interviewer, “Now do you suppose he wanted me to do this just for a day, or a week?  No! The Lord who told me to take care of my people meant me to do it just so long as I live, and so I do what he told me to do.”

This is Barbara Steiner with the story of the amazing Harriet Tubman.

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